Governor Pritzker of Illinois has closed Illinois schools for in-person classes for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. This school closure follow’s Pritzker’s order to shelter at home, which specifically allowed for visitation exchanges between homes as part of essential travel. The same rules apply in the State of Wisconsin, where Governor Evers’ shelter-in-place Emergency Order (Paragraph 15e) which was extended on April 16th, 2020 through May 26th, 2020 also leaves schools closed through the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Evers also ordered that essential travel includes the the transport of children pursuant to a custody agreement or court order. This means the quarantine alone is not a sufficient reason to deny visitation or parenting time with your ex.
Does the summer schedule start now?
It’s important to note that in Illinois and Wisconsin, public school is not “canceled” or “closed” even though in-person classes have been suspended through the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Your children are likely required to participate in remote learning such as via internet classes. Because the children are not attending traditional classes in their school classroom environment, it’s even more important that parents are monitoring and involved in e-learning to ensure that their children are still receiving an education and not falling behind due to the pandemic.
It is not likely that a judge would consider your child’s school year “over” with remote learning in session, prior to the end of the regularly scheduled school year. The answer may hinge on the exact wording of your Parenting Plan or visitation order. Your specific summer schedule is dependent on how it is phrased in your Parenting Plan and you may need to consult your attorney if you are unsure of how to interpret your Parenting Plan summer schedule language.
How can I access my kid’s school information if my ex won’t let me?
School closure means that it may be more difficult for you to communicate with your child’s teachers regarding their progress, but it’s not impossible. Generally, if the parent-child relationship is legally established, the records pertaining to the child will not be denied to either party upon request. Unless there is a legal exception that applies, a parent is entitled to the records of their child. If your relationship with your child’s other parent is so high-conflict that you cannot communicate about your child’s education, you could contact the school directly for information about your child’s education.
If your ex is not cooperating in your child’s remote learning, such as by withholding technology or materials provided by the school for remote learning, it is probably time to consult with an attorney or a professional mediator in order to ensure that your child’s education is not disrupted by an uncooperative parent. A child cannot be expected to thrive academically without having the tools they need to succeed.
What happens to my vacation time with my kids if we can’t travel?
Many parenting plans allow for special vacation time each year with your children. The precise wording of the parenting plan will be important. You do not have to leave the state or travel in order to use your vacation time with your children this summer. With most vacation destinations closed and shelter-in-place orders in our area, your vacation parenting time with your children this year may be a “staycation” but you still have the right to exercise your vacation parenting time as spelled out in your Parenting Plan.
My pickup and dropoff schedule is at the school.
If your Parenting Plan specifies that your children are dropped off or picked up for exchanges at the beginning or end of a school day, school closure will make this more difficult. Check your parenting plan to see if a backup or alternative exchange location is listed. You’ll probably want to work cooperatively with your ex to choose a new exchange location. Your exchange times can remain the same, and though many businesses are closed, there are always options for safe and secure public exchange locations such as retail parking lots or exchange areas specified by your local police department.
What if my ex is not social distancing? What if my ex is a frontline medical worker, first responder, or essential employee and is putting our children at risk in my opinion?
While you may feel that your child’s other parent is endangering your child because of their lack of social distancing or their essential job, the governors’ executive orders in either Illinois or Wisconsin do not provide you with a reason to violate your previous child custody orders. By withholding your kids from their other parent, you may be risking being held in contempt of court or other negative outcomes in your family court case.
If you wish to withhold visitation from your ex and your ex is not in agreement that suspending visitation is best for the child, the only lawful way to accomplish this would be to bring an emergency motion before the judge in your case. Having your motion heard may be very difficult at this time due to widespread court closures and the court’s narrow definitions of what constitutes an emergency.
Now is the time for you and your ex to communicate openly and clearly about your fears and your concerns for your children, in order to come to an agreement that puts your children’s best interests ahead of their parents wishes and disagreements. If you and your ex cannot accomplish this, it may be time to reach out to an attorney or a professional mediator.
What can I do if my ex and I disagree about the schedule?
While many courthouses are closed to non-emergency matters, your attorney can make a lot of progress on resolving your issues without going to court. Through negotiation with your ex or your ex’s attorney, you may be able to come to an agreement without going back to court.
Mediation is also an option – one that is often required before a judge will hear and rule on your disagreements. Many mediators are currently providing their services via telephone or video chat so that you can attend a mediation session while complying with the shelter at home orders of your state.
For a free attorney consultation with a Pro Legal Care LLC attorney, call us at (815) 200-8802 so that we can help your family find a path forward through your conflict.